Films have moved on from electricity, nuclear radiation, and DNA experiments to spawn their creatures. With The Thaw, the threat is now global warming, however unsubtle it may be.
Painful delivery and forced dialogue deliver the meat of the message. Two of the main characters, Atom (Aaron Ashmore) and Federico (Kyle Schmid), sit on a helicopter and discuss their views on global warming. They debate the human involvement, whether or not it exists, and what can be done to stop it.
This is after the movie’s opening montage warning the viewer of the disaster that could be if the human population doesn’t change, and other characters sit over a starving polar bear they have sedated. To say it crosses the line of forcefulness is an understatement, taking away from the meat of the story.
To Thaw’s credit, its tale of a preserved woolly mammoth housing an insect-like parasite is handled well. The script is slow, but brooding and effective, leaving the characters stranded with the killer bugs and themselves.
Thaw skips two days of its story, shifting the focus from a renowned scientist Dr. David Kruipen (Val Kilmer) to his daughter. The story leaves off where the infection first begins, picking up after it has spread. Discovery is eerie, shot mostly in low light and confined spaces. While some of the science is left out, the effectiveness of the visuals convey the terror and fear.
Being a horror film, characters begin to lose their common sense, letting Federico carry a gun, despite his deteriorating mental state. As expected, nothing good comes from it. The forced ending is a desperate attempt to add a twist, or even added emotional pull.
Thaw manages to overcome its problems, delivering creepy scenes without the need for excessive gore. Federico forces Kruipen’s daughter (Martha MacIsaac) to undress, checking her for infections. Director Mark A. Lewis chooses not to fill the screen with nudity, instead focusing on the faces, creating an uncomfortable, awkward scene with character building properties. It works, as does about half of Thaw.
What initially appears as a clean, bright AVC encode begins deteriorating around halfway through. Detail seems strong from the beginning, including a razor sharp presentation that reveals solid facial textures. Clothing textures are also visible. A stock footage shot of a car in traffic is rather glaring, but an obvious issue with the source.
Once into the abandoned research station, noise begins to increasingly annoy. Many of the later scenes are littered and covered in off-color noise, removing detail. Black levels become somewhat flat and lacking depth. Faces lose that high fidelity texture that was initially impressive. It is a tolerable image overall though, leaving those early scenes a bit of a tease.
Sadly, all of those creepy, crawling bugs sit firmly in the front channels. The surround channels are used sparingly, if at all. The subwoofer receives some work from heavy drums within the score, and from a powerful explosion near the end of the film. Dialogue is handled well, crisp and clear while remaining audible throughout. Volume adjustment is not needed.
A typical behind-the-scenes featurette recounts the characters and the plot, always an odd choice considering one would assume most people watch these after the film. An obnoxiously loud promo for this series of Sam Raimi’s “Ghost House Underground” releases is set to music, while a string of trailers remain the final option in the menu.